A veteran who died of a lethal combination of drugs administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) desperately called a Democratic congressman in the months before his death.
Jason Simcakoski knew he was being medicated into a dangerous state and was trying to get the FBI to look into the situation. He also called his congressman, Democratic Rep. Ron Kind. Simcakoski called Kind’s Washington, D.C. office Nov. 8, 2013, and spoke for eight minutes. Minutes before that, he had called the VA police. Simcakoski died at the hospital in August, 2014.
Whistleblowers had been frantically trying to alert authorities that Dr. David Houlihan, chief of staff at “Candy Land” Tomah, Wisc., federal hospital, was doping veterans up with sedatives at rates wildly out of step with his peers.
A spokeswoman for Kind said she had no immediate comment but might send out a statement. The call is the only one made from Simcakoski’s cell phone to a phone number with the House or Senate’s DC prefixes.
A record showing the call is contained in 5,000 pages of notes underlying a 300-page report published by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, chaired by Sen. Ron Johnson. The report is titled “The systemic failures and preventable tragedies at the Tomah VA Medical Center.”
“Jason Simcakoski attempted multiple times to engage local and federal law enforcement in examining drug diversion at the Tomah VAMC. For whatever reason, these law-enforcement officials apparently did not pursue the matter. The failure to do so represents yet another—and a very serious—missed opportunity to prevent the tragedies of the Tomah VAMC,” the report said without mentioning Kind.
Johnson has made the abuse of veterans by VA bureaucrats a major issue, even as government employee unions in the state have sought to turn it into an electoral one by blaming the hospital’s problems on Republicans. (RELATED: Union Officials Admit They Let Veterans Die Rather Than Talk To Republicans)
A union official said she had blown the whistle by hand-delivering a document to former Sen. Russ Feingold, but when Feingold decided to run against Johnson to retake his old seat — opening Feingold to charges he had failed to protect veterans by acting on information he was given — the union backtracked and said it had not given him the document.
The state’s other senator, Democrat Tammy Baldwin, also didn’t take action until multiple vets had died, despite whistleblowers warning her office.
Baldwin blamed a top staffer, Marquette Baylor, and took the highly unusual step of firing her and making her a public scapegoat. Baylor has since filed an ethics complaint against her former boss, saying Baldwin unfairly blamed her “to protect her political career.”
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